Facing the Mistakes of Life VII

We cannot relive our old mistakes, but we can make them the means of future immunity from the folly that caused them. If we were impatient yesterday, it should inspire us to be patient today. Yesterday’s anger may be the seed of today’s sweetness. Today’s kindness should be the form assumed by our regret at yesterday’s cruelty. Our unfairness to one may open our eyes to the possibility of greater fairness to hundreds. Injustice to one that may seem to have cost us much may really have cost us little if it makes us more kind, tender and thoughtful for long years.” William George Jordan

I’ve known some people who used the idea that mistakes provide lessons for our tomorrows as an excuse for not giving their highest and finest now. “There’s always tomorrow,” they say, believing that so saying gives them permission to slip up with impunity. Thank goodness that the phoenix can rise form the ashes, but that should only be the approach of last resort and never Plan A!

There must be sufficient momentum to sustain progress individually and collectively. If you, for instance, go through a day where your thoughts, words and deeds only hit the mark in 10 percent of the cases, the resultant drag will likely grind your life’s momentum to a halt if you’re not careful in the days to come. If, on the other hand, you maintain your crown of individuality and as a result, your integrity, dignity and poise, you are more likely to hit the mark, say, 75-95 percent of the time. This has the dual effect of reducing drag and increasing thrust.

Navigating the world we’ve created for ourselves, which is essentially the culmination of eons of free choice and other lesser-known causal factors, is akin to flying. If your airship is well-built, has structural integrity and is free of maintenance squawks, you’ll likely do well, regardless of the occasional turbulence. If, however, you’ve put off the maintenance, disregarded the growing rust on your wing spars and failed to make the adjustments necessary to keep your craft in top shape, the slightest bobble in the air will be sufficient to produce knots in your stomach.

There is mercy in the fact that – up to a certain point – we can learn from our mistakes and move on. Let that not be an excuse for subpar function, in fact, don’t just shoot for average. Go for the gold! The more refined your function, the more aligned your body, mind and heart, the less corrections you will need to make and what’s more, the slight adjustments you’ll need to make to your course will become almost imperceptible to others!

It is true in sports, it is the case in relationships and this principle works out in every other department of life. Just watch those who excel and you will see it in action. Learn to cooperate with it and I can assure you that your life will be a thousand times easier, more productive and less stressful!

Facing the Mistakes of Life V

Omnipotence cannot change the past, so why should we try? Our duty is to compel that past to vitalize our future with new courage and purpose, making it a larger, greater future than would have been possible without the past that has so grieved us. If we can get real, fine, appetizing dividends from our mistakes they prove themselves not losses but—wise investments. They seem like old mining shares, laid aside in the lavender of memory of our optimism and now, by some sudden change in the market of speculation, proved to be of real value.

Realizing mistakes is good; realizing on them is better. When a captain finds his vessel is out of the right channel, carried, by negligence, by adverse winds or by blundering through a fog, from the true course, he wastes no time in bemoaning his mistake but at the first sunburst takes new bearings, changes his course, steers bravely towards his harbour with renewed courage to make up the time he has lost. The mistake means— increased care and greater speed.” – William George Jordan

Great is the man who learns from his mistakes and moves on. Petty is he who blames his past failures on others, rather than simply seeing his own part in the matter, making the internal changes necessary to avoid repeating the error and moving on. Have you ever noticed that human beings have an odd tendency to add injury to insult when it comes to dealing with mistakes? They blame, deny, accuse, avoid, deflect and more rather than realizing the mistake, changing their orientation and pushing courageously forward.

You may recall the story of Montresor and Fortunado in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, where Montresor felt irreparably insulted by his acquaintance, Fortunado, and he sought to exact revenge in a way that would not put himself at risk. Fortunado was lured into Montresor’s vault by the prospect of a rare pipe of Amontillado, and was then chained up in a small crypt by Montresor who then built a brick wall, with the intent of killing Fortunado by immurement. A terrible tale, indeed, illuminating the darker side of human nature as Poe did so well on so many occasions, but one that you may have had experience with personally at some point in your life.

Revenge is never a creative motivation. It is especially damaging when it is played out anonymously. Cowardice leads men to the lowest of deeds, often undertaken de cape et d’épée, for they cannot own up to their own responsibility in the choices they’ve made. They cloak themselves in some form of anonymity to avoid detection and carry a dagger, a longtime weapon of choice favored for its silent lethality. Such is the sad state of a man fallen from his rightful and noble place in the world.

Surely we can do better as a species, as a race, as individuals. But this sad tale unfolds every day in untold millions of households, business offices and virtual sites on the internet.

Jordan noted that: “Realizing mistakes is good, realizing on them is better” and I am in complete and total agreement with his advice in this case. The tendency to seek revenge bewilders the avenger to the point that he can no longer see clearly. His ability to reason, to recognize and come to terms with his mistakes is shut down and he consequently will never have the time, energy or perspective to “realize on” his mistakes and earn thereby the “real, fine, appetizing dividends” that are the profits earned whenever a mistake is handled well.

Real value is always available in life. Develop the bad habits, such as vengeance, denial or blame and you will never see it. Develop the right habits, conversely, and you will be one of those rare individuals on earth who has the capacity to value in everything.